Fact of life - Mumknows best

Article date: 14 August 2002

Mum's the word when it comes to talking about sex, a new studyreveals today.

Three in five children between the ages of 10 and 15 choose toturn to their mother rather than their father with sensitivequestions about sex and puberty.

And it’s not just the girls who are talking to their mums.Twice as many adolescent boys approach mum over dad when it comesto discussions about the birds and the bees.

According to the ‘Talking Puberty’ study by NorwichUnion Healthcare, gone are the days of parents broaching thesubject of puberty. In fact, nearly half of kids actively approachtheir parents and bring the topic up before their parents get tothem.

But discussions about sex still tops the list of things parentsfind most difficult to discuss with their children – followedby death and drugs.

While sex education at school helps – the study shows thatnine in ten adolescents have had sex education at school - aquarter admit they still don’t know enough about puberty.

Commenting on the findings of the ‘Talking Puberty’study, leading psychologist Dr Aric Sigman said: “Theresearch shows there’s certainly a will but not always a wayto discuss sensitive topics such as sex and puberty. Mothers arefar more proactive at seeking out a time to talk and makingthemselves available for questions and are generally better atreading a child’s emotions. But fathers still seem to be inthe dark.

“The average age at which children reach puberty isfalling, particularly amongst girls. Recent statistics released bythe Government* show that in the past three years more than 400girls under 14 conceived so it’s critical that parents takean active role in educating their child about puberty and lifechanges.”

Norwich Union Healthcare’s ‘Talking Puberty’study of 252 children aged 10 to 15 years and 244 parents alsoshows:

  • Dads find delicate topics most difficult to handle, with 38per cent admitting to never having discussed sex and puberty withtheir children
  • Three quarters of parents assume their children find out aboutpuberty at school
  • Nine in ten children aged 10 to 15 years old think theirparents are good role models and 92 per cent believe they explainpuberty well
  • Nearly two thirds of parents describe their family as open andcommunicative with nearly half of children surveyed agreeing

Nicole Hockley, communications manager for Norwich UnionHealthcare, said: “The teenage years bring with them theirown unique challenges for teens, but also for parents. Our researchshows that families are more open and honest than ever before, butparents still need help and guidance in broaching sensitive topicswith their children.”

Dr Aric Sigman’s five tips for parents discussing pubertywith their children are:

  1. Parents should work as a team. Fathers may feel morecomfortable providing the facts and general information in adiscussion, while the mother may provide the emotional and socialcontext
  2. Try to get some clear impartial information before approachingyour kids – there’s a lot of misinformation abouttopics such as contraception, drugs and alcohol
  3. Children may learn about the biology of puberty and sex atschool and from the media, but they’re often na├»ve about theemotional changes and this is where parents can provide a lot ofinput
  4. Don’t be afraid to be parents as opposed to ‘bestfriends’ to your child. They expect you to hold different ordisapproving views about many things

More information and advice for parents from Dr Sigman isavailable at www.norwichunion.com/puberty

Press contact:
Matthew Buchanan, Jo Misson or Howard Bowden at QBO on 020 73790304 or Louise Zucchi at Norwich Union on 08703 666 860

Dr Aric Sigman is available for interview on the findings of theNorwich Union Healthcare ‘Talking Puberty’ study andoffering advice for parents.

Notes to editors

  • Norwich Union Healthcare commissioned research amongst 244parents and 252 children aged 10 to 15 years old in July 2002

    * (Office of National Statistics 2002)

  • Norwich Union Healthcare is the healthcare arm of NorwichUnion and provides a range of private medical insurance and incomeprotection products to around 750,000 customers. It is one of thelargest providers of income protection and private medicalinsurance in the UK.
  • Norwich Union is the UK’s largest insurer offering acomprehensive range of long-term savings and general insuranceproducts.
  • Norwich Union’s news releases are available on the Avivaplc website at www.aviva.com
  • A selection of images are available from the Norwich UnionNewscast site at www.newscast.co.uk

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